Guard not allowed immunity for pepper-spraying sleeping inmate
In Roberson v. Torres, the Sixth Circuit ruled that a guard could not demand governmental immunity in an Eighth Amendment "cruel and unusual punishment" claim. An inmate sued the guard, alleging that he was pepper-sprayed in his cell while sleeping--apparently because he did not respond to the guard's instructions. The Court noted that this claim was similar to a prior case where a guard was denied immunity after using a chemical agent on a prisoner who merely asked why he must pack up his belongings.
The Court reiterated that "when prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency are always violated." In this case, use of a chemical agent was not justified because it was not necessary to restore order, and since "less intrusive means" could have been used to wake the prisoner."